Drop the labels and hop in

You think you know me. Even if you’ve never read a single word I’ve ever written, there’s no doubt you’ve already glanced at the photo on this page and perceived what would follow. My guess is that you are skimming, searching for those key words or phrases that will make it easier for you to attach any number of labels to me. Liberal. Conservative. Flyover country, breadbasket white. Blonde. Materialistic. Granola.

After all, choosing a few labels — or, for my fellow bibliophiles, “people-genres” — provides the illusion of order. The known, however predictable and stale, is often preferred to the unknown. It’s a lot safer, we believe, to pull into an already known franchise restaurant than risk our hunger on a local, mom-and-pop diner in a strange geography.

Given that, this column and its author may prove to be unsettling.

I’m one of those odd people. Not in a creepy way, but odd in the way that finds pleasure in visiting a new place, taking a wrong turn and getting a little lost. I thrive on driving a new route to work each day, and generally have a difficult time ignoring strange highway exit ramps. New neighborhoods make my heart beat a little faster. I get giddy at the thought of a party filled with people I’ve yet to meet.

(Photo by Lynda Waddington)
(Photo by Lynda Waddington)

I like dirt roads, unopened and handwritten envelopes, secret fishing holes, historical buildings, the vibrations of a city, fresh notebooks and unfiltered people. I want rockabilly on my stereo when I risk life and limb on I-80. Limp Bizkit and Nine Inch Nails are my workout companions.

I can’t remember a spring when I failed to pause and stare in awe at the buds on the trees. This spring I’ve paused for a few extra and well-deserved beats. Libraries and bookstores are equal parts wonder and frustration because of all they hold, and knowing I’ll never have time to absorb it all.

I was convinced I’d burned out on politics until I briefly landed in corporate America and learned politics wasn’t nearly or as uniquely dirty as I previously thought. It takes perspective to separate the arena from the players and to understand each team in each league has a few white and black hats. More importantly, it takes experience to gain perspective.

I know it is customary for me to write this column, my first, as an introduction of sorts. I should discuss who I am and what you can expect to read here. But the truth is, there is no pinpoint answer to either of those propositions. Like so many of you, I’m imperfect and multifaceted, and I expect this column will follow suit.

As a part of this journey, you and I are going to hit traffic and get bogged down with trivial stuff that seems important at the time. We are going to have stretches of open road when the sky and the pavement connect so perfectly we will briefly believe we’re gods. We will meet new people, learn new things, and sometimes we aren’t going to enjoy either. We’re going to have good days and bad days and not shy away from discussing them. There’s no doubt we are going to squabble for control of the radio.

Nonetheless, with each mile marker along the way, we are going to be a little better, a little stronger for the experience. You ready? Hop in. You can ride shotgun.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on April 13, 2014. Photo credit: Lynda Waddington